A HISTORY OF OLD TECH 

Goetzman & Folmer, Architects

June 1982 

 

"Old Tech” was built as a result of an agreement between the University of Cincinnati and the Technical School of Cincinnati, a manual training school. The Board of Directors of the Technical School offered to give the University its equipment and charter provided the University would operate the school as the Technical School of the College of Engineering. The trustees of the Technical School further helped facilitate this agreement by raising the money to construct a building on University grounds. James E. Mooney was one of the principal donors.  

 

A report by Howard Ayers, President of the Board of Directors of U.C. on June 24, 1901 states "…..a building thoroughly adapted to the needs of Manual Training and Technical Instruction would form an integral part of our School of Engineering and furnish the preliminary and indispensable shop-training in wood and metal work, which all of our Engineering students are required to have. In the second place, it would constitute a portion of the experimental course of the Teachers College, and thus serve an important purpose not only in properly training teachers for their profession, but also in giving them adequate practical experience in the fundamental principles of their professional work. The University would maintain the Manual Training course of study of the Technical School until such time as the Board of Education of Cincinnati shall establish a satisfactory Manual Training High School or other Manual Training School in this city."  

 

Cost of the building was estimated to be $12,430.00. It was believed that it would be relatively inexpensive to operate because it would utilize heat, light and power provided by the University's existing plant (The Commons) and because the administration would be handled by the Engineering Department. By the fall of 1901 the foundation was laid and by March of 1902 the building was ready for use, but in 1907 the Technical School was discontinued and the building and equipment were turned over completely to the College of Engineering.  When Baldwin Hall was built in 1912, most of the engineering facilities were moved. The Geology and Geography Department grew eventually to complete occupancy of the structure.

 
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 The "Old Tech" Building has the look of a structure that hasn't seen much change since the day it was built, but that is not the case. It was originally designed with a two-story center section and one story wings. Windows were shorter with arched heads and the entrance was on the east side. The two story central portion originally contained a carpenter shop on the first floor and classrooms on the second. The wings were wide open one-story spaces with roof rafters exposed. The north wing contained a "Forge Shop" and the south wing a "Machine Shop" over a basement. Changes were made so carefully and were kept in such character with the original building that without the original drawings it would be very difficult to tell what is "new." The original drawings by well known Cincinnati architects, Elzner and Anderson, call for omitting the north wing. So it is very possible that this wing did not go with the original building. But it was definitely there by 1907 when drawings by Tietig and Lee, architects, show the second floor being added to that wing. To accomplish this, the exterior walls were taken down to the tops of window openings, arch heads were removed, and the present square transom section added. Footings and columns to support the new floor were added. The first floor of the wing was partitioned into three classrooms, a "large testing lab'" at the north end, two offices, a "toilet room" and a set of stairs to the second floor. The second floor was divided in a similar fashion with a large drafting room at the north end. 

 

Two years later architects Tietig and Lee produced drawings to balance off the building by adding a second story to the south wing. This time exterior walls were taken down all the way to the top of the basement foundation. Stairs to the basement were removed from the inside and the north areaway deepened to allow steps down on the outside in their present location. It was at about this same time that reinforced concrete was coming into common use, so whereas the north addition was done like the main building with wood joists and steel beams, the south wing used reinforced concrete columns and beams and floor panels.  

 

The drawings of 1909 also show that the recently added partitions, toilet room, and stair on the first floor of the north wing were now being removed. Only one office and a large room remained. The toilet room reappeared on the second floor where the stair had been. Two of the second floor classrooms were combined into one and a corridor ran through to a new fire escape on the east side. The top floor on the south side was partitioned off in a fashion similar to the north side with an office taking the place of the toilet room. The first floor was left without partitions. The large lecture room in the center of the building was part of this phase as well as the stone portico centered in the east facade, which gives outside access to it. It also included the addition of a classroom in the second floor roof space where the skylight had been. Second floor classrooms were also reduced in size to allow for a corridor into the wings. It was also at this time that the arches were removed from the windows of the building's center section and openings raised to duplicate those of the wings.  

 

At the end of this phase of construction the elements of the exterior looked almost exactly as they do today. Likewise the second floor was much as it is now. The main exception is that the fire escapes on the east side and the corridors to them were eliminated with new escapes (existing) being located on the west side.  

 

The first floor has been in more of a state of flux with partitions being added, removed and added once again. The museum first appears on 1913 drawings in only the west side of the south wing, then shifts to the north wing where it was later divided and then relocated in its present position in the south wing. It was torn down in 1990 to make room for a wall and some lawn.